Editor’s note: This is the second of a 9-part series in which Westport News reporter Laura Weiss takes part in the town’s Citizens’ Police Academy. Weiss will share her experiences with readers in this column.

WESTPORT — Clad in dark goggles, my classmates tried to put one foot in front of the other along bright, yellow caution tape arranged in a straight line on the floor. During the second week of the Citizens’ Police Academy, I flashed back to my middle school D.A.R.E. days as we tested out drunk goggles. One thing I didn’t remember was the stumbling started with the .06 to .08 blood alcohol content goggles, just under the legal limit.

Police Cpl. Howard Simpson made a DUI enforcement presentation during the second week of class. While wearing the drunk goggles, many in the citizens’ academy resorted to airplane arms — a common move for a drunken driver trying to pass a field sobriety test, Simpson said.

Lt. Eric Woods, a shift commander, talked to the class about Westport’s patrol unit. The majority of Westport patrol officers wear body cameras, which Woods said have reduced the number of sustained community complaints almost entirely. Instead of going back and forth, the department will show a community unedited video from an incident to immediately set the record straight.

“They’re a godsend,” Woods said, adding if an officer makes a mistake, body cameras let the department know and see exactly what happened, while an officer that did his or her job correctly would have evidence they acted properly. If an officer does make a mistake, Woods said, it matters to the department whether it was a “mistake of the heart” or a “mistake of the mind.”

Officers download and save all recordings, which are automatically deleted in six months unless they are part of an active investigation. Patrol officers can save, but not delete, footage. Woods said police use the cameras more often than not and encourage them on domestic calls and traffic stops, which can be dangerous and confrontational.

Westport is one of a handful of area departments that uses body cams, and officers at the class seemed to like the policy and extra security of having footage to back up their word.

Tasers also came up during the presentation. Woods said not all officers are Taser-certified; the decision is with each officer. To me, that choice made sense given that to get Taser-certified, officers have to be Tasered themselves. Experiencing the shock of being Tasered helps police have confidence in the power of the weapons and know their power, so they can avoid overusing them.

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